The Best Way to Make AI-Generated Digital Art for Free

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Image: Brendan Hesse / Midjourney

The internet is collectively obsessed with art-generating AIs lately, and one of the newest tools is Midjourney. And while the full version requires a monthly subscription, Midjourney is free to use for up to 25 images, and you can browse and download images made by other users even if you never sign up for a paid account.

Midjourney’s images are impressive compared to other art-generating apps out there, with results that almost look like they were made by human artists. And I am really emphasizing the “almost” in that sentence. This is a machine mashing together works from real human painters, illustrators, and digital artists (none of whom are compensated for their work being used in this way, by the way). Midjourney is still in beta and the AI may continue to improve, but even the best Midjourney image will look a bit…off. And for now, the claims (or threats) that AI will “replace” human artists aren’t substantiated.

Nonetheless, Midjourney is fun to play around with and can make some really cool stuff if you keep your expectations in check. Here’s how to check it out for yourself.

Join the Midjourney beta and Discord server

The only real requirement for trying Midjourney is a Discord account, since the AI runs on its own dedicated Discord server. Discord is free to use, and while most users run it as a desktop app, you can also run Discord in a browser if you don’t want to install it on your computer.

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  1. Go to midjourney.com and click “Join beta.”
  1. Sign in with your Discord account or create a new one.
  2. Accept the Discord invite and link Midjourney to your Discord account when prompted. You’re now in the Midjourney beta.

How to generate AI images

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse / Midjourney

Once you’re signed into the Midjourney Discord, you can start using the service.

  1. In the Midjourney server, find and join one of the channels labeled “Newbies.” There are multiple Newbie channels to pick from and new ones are added regularly to accommodate more users, but if the server is overloaded then these channels may be hidden. Just check back later if you don’t see a Newbie channel list.
  2. In the channel, type /imagine followed by your prompt. For example: /imagine Night Sky Filled with Stars and Spaceships then press Enter to send the message. You can also use extra parameters and even provide reference photos if you’re going for something hyper-specific. Check the online user manual for all the different terms and parameters the AI recognizes.
  3. (Note: Your prompts and the resulting images are openly viewable by other Midjourney users, and the Midjourney Discord rules and terms of service expressly forbid sensitive content like gore, nudity, and offensive or overly aggressive imagery.)
  4. After you send your message, the AI will generate four variations on your prompt. This might take a minute or two depending on the AI’s workload, but the server will ping you with a new message containing the images once the process is done. The resulting images will be lower resolution and might look a bit wonky (this is AI-generated art, after all), but should offer a good starting point.

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

From here, you can fire off another prompt or refine the images with variations and upscaling.

Under the four-image grid will be a row of clickable buttons labeled “V1” through “V4,” and “U1” through “U4,” plus a do-over button. The “V” buttons let you create variations based on one of the four images, while the “U” buttons will upscale one of the images with more detail. You can also re-do the prompt to try again—just keep in mind any variations or upscales you request will eat into your free image limit. There’s also a limit on the upscale quality; can usually get about three upscales before the AI reaches max resolution.

How to find your Midjourney image history and find other art

Images you specifically generate are also viewable on your Midjourney profile page or in your Discord message history. That said, you can freely browse the public Midjourney gallery even after your free trial period ends. The web app lets you filter by art style and other search options, and you can follow specific users to see what else they make.

How much does the paid Midjourney account cost?

If you dig the AI and want to keep using it, subscriptions start at $10/month for 200 images per month. Additional plans and bonus features like a “private” mode are also available for additional monthly cost. Midjourney images are only available for personal use, and anyone can download them freely from the public gallery. Users need to subscribe to one of the enterprise-level subscription plans to use their images commercially.

 

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